Dakota Datebook

New Nipponese Wife

Thursday, August 29, 2013

 

Last May, a small Chinese restaurant in Mandan made headlines after being named one of the top 100 Chinese restaurants in America. Sammy Wu and his family opened the Rice Bowl above the Mandan Library in the late 1990s. Despite the long history and ubiquity of Chinese restaurants in the state, the Rice Bowl was the first North Dakota eatery named to the annual list. In fact, nearly a hundred years ago, North Dakotans were already enjoying authentic Asian food at Dickinson’s popular Star Restaurant, although a notable scandal led to its closing on this date in 1917.

The Star restaurant was opened by Sosku Abe, a Japanese immigrant who made his way eastward after landing on the West Coast. He stopped for a time in Billings, Montana, where he met and married an American artist. When they arrived in Dickinson, Mr. Abe decided that the small but growing town would be a promising location to open his restaurant. He named his eatery the Star Restaurant, and his Asian entrees soon attracted a large crowd. Unfortunately, his wife was not showing as much promise as the newly-opened restaurant. Mr. Abe eventually sought a divorce, even though Mrs. Abe would retain ownership of the restaurant as part of the settlement.

Discouraged, but not defeated, Mr. Abe decided to obtain a new wife that could help him open a new restaurant; and since an American wife had already proved a disappointment, he wrote to the Japanese embassy in Chicago, arranging to purchase a mail-order bride from Japan.

When Dickinsonians heard that Mr. Abe was picking up a newly-purchased wife in Seattle, they immediately disapproved; however, they were soon distracted by another story – the demise of their beloved Star Restaurant. It seems that the former Mrs. Abe, in the absence of her husband, had run restaurant into the ground. She had furthermore become the pet project of the local Salvation Army chief, Captain Rhoda, who “…hoped to win her back to useful womanhood.” One of the first things witnessed by the new Mrs. Abe on the night she arrived in Dickinson was the Captain carrying the ex-wife past the train station to Salvation headquarters; the sheriff having just closed the only Asian restaurant in town.

 

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job

 

Sources:

“Free Jap Bride in Dickinson”, The Beach Advance (Golden Valley County, ND). August 29th, 1917.

http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ndbillin/1917.htm

http://www.infomercantile.com/dakota_death_trip/Abandons_Wife_1342407785.html (Dakota Death Trip blog posted by D. Dahlsad, The Beach Advance, August 29, 1917).

http://www.bizjournals.com/prnewswire/press_releases/2013/02/14/CL60622

http://www.kxnet.com/story/22410848/rice-bowl-named-top-100-chinese-restaurant-in-country

http://www.s-b-s.net/jin_e/Contentlist.aspx?catid=515180436

 

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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